An Eye For An Eye


‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ Matthew 5:38-42

The Jews twisted the teaching of the Old Testament law on this matter, they basically took these principles and applied them to their everyday relationships. The ‘eye for an eye’ was a civil law of the Old Testament where the people had the authority to punish offenders, but the punishment must fit the crime, Exodus 21:23-24.

The retaliation law that was given to Israel was more compassionate than the law that existed previous to the giving of the law to Israel. In reference to this law, Jesus stated that love should succeed over the will to retaliate against our neighbour, Leviticus 24:19-20.

The principle of the law would be that the death penalty would be given to those who voluntarily murdered another person. If someone voluntarily took the life of another, he had his right to life taken from him, Deuteronomy 19:21.

This law made accusers think twice before slanderously accusing one of a deed for which he had no evidence. We have to remember that the law of the land before God gave his instructions were really bad. If you kill my child, I will kill all your children, your wife, your brothers, your whole generation! If you knock out my tooth or eye, I will knock out all of yours and kill you also.

Here in Matthew, Jesus is teaching against the concept of retaliation. What Jesus was condemning was the Pharisees’ misapplication of the principle of this law. They were using the principle as a justification for personal revenge. They misunderstood the principle of the law.

That principle is that there is a punishment for the violation of law, and the punishment must match the crime. In other words, the death penalty wouldn’t be given to one who told a lie.

Wrongdoing that is committed against Christians originates from Satan, Christians must resist the temptations of Satan, James 4:7.

However, retaliation against those whom Satan uses to promote his work isn’t a Christian principle. The slap here is an insulting blow or
what we would call an insulting blow and anyone who is willing to slap a Christian is allowing Satan to use them to persecute Christians. It’s better to suffer ill-treatment than to resist or retaliate against those who would persecute us, 1 Peter 2:18-20.

It was a Roman law that a government official could command into service any person or thing that was needed to carry a soldier’s armour. Jesus’ disciples are here commanded to willingly comply with those who would compel their services. The disciples shouldn’t retaliate by withholding from those who would ask of them, Deuteronomy 15:8-10 / Galatians 6:10 / James 2:14-17.

The disciples must willingly give when compelled by those who would demand of them according to law, Luke 6:29-30.

The whole point is that instead of retaliating against those who would insult us or demand things from us, the Christian can overcome evil by doing good. Hence why Jesus goes on to speak about how to love our enemies, Matthew 5:43-44.

Imagine how putting into practice Jesus’ teaching would affect the world we’re living in now. Imagine a world where good was returned for evil! What if we practised what Jesus did?

Don’t curse your offender, that’s the worldly thing to do, when we get struck, we want to retaliate, when we get wounded, we want to wound back. And it’s so easy to rationalise, it’s so easy to justify your offence and to want to hurt back. Most people in life think you survive by hurting back, you slap me, and I’ll slap you back harder, Romans 12:14,

Don’t curse your offender, if someone hurts you, the first thing you want to do is shout at them to God. Do we have any record of Jesus cursing when He was wounded? Check out the record ‘He was insulted and did not retaliate with insults; when he was suffering, he made no threats but put his trust in the upright judge.’ 1 Peter 2:23.

Do you want to let your enemy, have it?

The Bible says no! Do what Jesus did, let God have it. Just hand over the whole situation to God and trust Him with it, if you need to talk out your pain, talk it out with God, don’t curse your offender.

Don’t nurse your pain because how does holding onto it change the past or repair broken relationships? Why do you want your enemy to pay for something that Jesus has already paid for? If the blood of Jesus has satisfied God for their sin, why are you still not satisfied? You see, the cross has invalidated all justification for holding a grudge, Ephesians 2:16.

That doesn’t mean you still can’t hate, it means you don’t have a right to. You have no right because of the righteousness of the cross of Jesus to be holding onto a grudge with anybody. We have got sufficient motivation to let go of bitterness. The struggle to forgive is the struggle of the will and to soften your will, you have to do some serious business at the cross. Forgiveness is hard but so was Calvary and that’s our model, Ephesians 4:32 / Colossians 3:13.

The cross doesn’t make forgiveness easy, but it does make it possible. Love your enemies, do good to them, feed them when they are hungry, give them clothes when they are cold, and visit them when they are sick.